Level of unlawful council activity 'unprecedented': Ngaio Crequer reports on the claims that there has been a decade of malpractice in Lambeth

IT WAS always an irritating issue to the residents of Lambeth that they paid the highest poll tax bills. Especially so when neighbouring Wandsworth charged nothing at all.

The news that for more than a decade unlawful practices have been followed by Lambeth council in south London, amounting to several millions of pounds of money being misdirected, will not cheer residents of either borough.

The report by Herman Ouseley, the chief executive - and it must be said that since his appointment in 1991 a searching light has been cast over council practices - makes grim reading.

The purpose of his report is to make recommendations concerning unlawful activity in relation to civil engineering works, unlawful and potentially unlawful activity 'on an unprecedented scale' in other parts of the council, and activity which constitutes maladministration and/or injustice.

His report calls for the police to be invited to investigate issues surrounding work in progress in housing maintenance, particularly the role of sub-contractors.

Mr Ouseley wants 14 contracts for housing repairs and maintenance to be re-tendered. He proposes that 'all necessary' disciplinary action be taken regarding the council's integrated building services and the police be invited to take a look. Refuse collection and street cleaning could be subject to re-tenders.

He has had problemswith the report. Finance, health and environmental officers have given him assistance in carrying out his statutory duty of seeing money is properly spent. But the report says: 'It is a matter of grave concern that these officers and their families have all been subjected to a range of intimidatory activity from sources as yet unknown where it seems likely to be related to their work in this area.'

Incidents, unspecified in the report, have been reported to the police, 'and will no doubt need to be considered again in any wider police investigation'.

There is also the question of personal liability of officials who may have been involved in disobeying the law. A number of officers in the directorate of operational services, or civil engineering and public services, will have to face, says his report, either disciplinary action; legal action for the recovery of monies; reports to the district auditor for wilful misconduct; or police investigation.

Examples of malpractice abound: incomplete jobs charged for on a 'done status'; overcharging for jobs; no working papers to show how estimates were prepared for refuse collection - the last time a proper budget was prepared was six years ago.

Regarding street lighting, works had been invoiced as complete even though there was evidence that signs and bollards had been out of order. For housing repairs, where much work was sub-contracted, there were missing documents and invoices, making auditing difficult if not impossible.

With regard to the integrated building services, officers had flouted or in many cases ignored council standing orders over contracts. Allegations of 'corrupt practices' had been made which were being internally investigated. It had created 'a regime where the opportunities for corruption are legion'.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future